What is a warehouse management system?
Do you need a warehouse management system for Shopify? Let’s explore. Don’t let the term warehouse management system scare you. In this article, we’re defining warehouse management systems for small businesses. A warehouse management system (aka WMS) is a system that can manage one or more warehouse locations. This includes:
- Receiving Goods In. A WMS provides a system for receiving goods into your warehouse. The WMS can tell you where an item goes automatically during the receiving process. It can create a put-away ticket or use an app to guide you on how to store each item received. It’s important to receive items against purchase orders, aligning quantities ordered versus received. Often receiving goods involves scanning a barcode using a barcode scanner or an app such as Zenventory.
- Managing Inventory. Managing inventory is not just knowing item quantities and their locations. Often you’ll want to map items to locations based on their turnover. When possible items should be barcoded for faster processing. In some cases, lot number, serialization, and expiration dates must be tracked. Inventory may need to be tracked over multiple warehouses. Some of these warehouses may be third-party partners such as Amazon FBA.
- Order Fulfillment Processes. Think order picking, packing, and shipping. As mentioned before, barcoding can speed up these processes. You can keep customers engaged during these processes so they know their order will be on its way soon.
WMS solutions follow generally accepted practices. A warehouse management solution for Shopify will bring the best of two worlds: marketing and operations. However, you’ll need third-party add-ons to provide the best inventory management and order fulfillment processes.
Expand on Shopify for better business operations
Great, you have Shopify to promote and sell your products on the Internet. Shopify is a world-renowned e-commerce platform for selling and marketing your products. You’ll find lots of tools on Shopify’s website to help you create your online store. Shopify also has a great marketplace with certified apps to expand on Shopify’s shortcomings. On the Shopify app store, you can find apps such as accounting, inventory management, and order fulfillment solutions. The latter two are commonly part of a warehouse management system. Typically e-commerce platforms such as Shopify rock at selling and marketing. However, you may find it lacking in managing your warehouse for optimal order fulfillment. At the end of the day faster and accurate order fulfillment means happier customers.
And now 5 reasons you need a Warehouse Management System for Shopify
You’re an omnichannel retailer.
Most retailers try to sell through many outlets of which one may be Shopify. For example, in order to capture the largest audience a retailer may sell on Shopify, eBay, Amazon, and others. A WMS will help you keep each platform up to date with current inventory levels. It should also get orders from each platform organizing them for picking, packing, and shipping.
You track levels of inventory by aisles, shelves, bins, or other locations.
Shopify appears to only track business locations such as an entire warehouse, not aisles, shelves, bins, etc. Accurate inventory counts are important. In some cases, you may have the same product in multiple locations due to space limitations. Perhaps you need to pick older stock first. Rotating stock through locations based on picking strategies helps minimize walk time when picking. If you’re managing multiple warehouses, you may need to conduct warehouse transfers to minimize order delivery costs.
Products may be parts of kits or bundles.
Shopify doesn’t really offer a way to sell bundles or kits. This is especially concerning if you offer kits that aren’t prepackaged together. To avoid having items tied up in bundles, retailers often pick individual items and pack them into a special box. A warehouse management system for Shopify should offer the option to group individual SKUs into one SKU, then direct how to pick them.
Products have serial numbers, lot numbers, or expiration dates.
Shopify has a workaround using variants. Sizes and colors are forms of variants. Serial numbers are not variants of a product. Using a Shopify variant would be tedious since you’d have to add a variant for every serial number. Serial numbers must be assigned during order fulfillment. If you’re using the right WMS you can skip worrying about serial numbers in Shopify. A warehouse management system for Shopify will require the picker to scan a serial number during picking. The serial number is then accurately assigned to the order for future reference by you or your customer.
Similarly, lot numbers group manufactured goods together based on batches, locations, and dates. Lot numbers may be needed in the event of a product recall. It doesn’t make sense to use a Shopify variant for lot number tracking. A WMS knows when an item has been assigned a lot number. A WMS should direct the user to the appropriate lot number to pick. A lot number is assigned to the order in the event you need to contact the customer in the future for recalls.
Shopify has no way of tracking expiration dates. Follow a FIFO (first in first out) process for orders containing expiring items. Ship the oldest items first. Your WMS will direct you to pick the oldest items first in this case.
You Use Fulfillment By Amazon, The Shopify Fulfillment Network, or other 3rd parties
Recently Shopify announced its new Shopify Fulfillment Network. It seems this may directly compete with Amazon’s FBA. Besides these two well-known entities, there are tons of third-party logistics companies that can also store your inventory and ship orders for you. Many third-party logistics companies have Zenventory. Keeping accurate levels of inventory in multiple third party warehouses can be troublesome. Especially if you also ship directly from your warehouse. A WMS that can provide information about the level of stock in all warehouses can be a customer saver. When orders come in, your WMS can direct the most optimal warehouse to ship from saving time and money.
In Summary, a warehouse management system for Shopify
A warehouse management system involves receiving goods into your warehouse, inventory management, and order management. We’ve outlined for you some reason why you may need a warehouse management system. If you have a Shopify store, we’ve listed five important reasons to expand your e-Commerce operation.
Zenventory is on the Shopify App Store. E-commerce businesses love Zenventory. We’re built for omnichannel retailers and connect to the largest e-commerce platforms in the world, including Shopify, BigCommerce, Quickbooks, Amazon, and many others. For a list of Zenventory features, check out our features page.